Sir Graham Liggins, who died last year aged 84, made arguably the greatest contribution of any Australian or New Zealand practitioner to modern obstetric practice. Educated at the University of Otago, his work in the 1960s on causes of prematurity led to the publication of a landmark randomised controlled trial. This 1972 report demonstrated a two-thirds reduction in the incidence of respiratory distress syndrome in preterm neonates who had received antenatal corticosteroids. Although not immediately universally accepted, subsequent work substantiated the benefit of this simple, ground-breaking treatment. The administration of antenatal glucocorticoids, now standard obstetric practice, is widely acknowledged as the single most effective therapy in minimising mortality from prematurity.